The Green Bay Packers are NFC North champions for the first time since the 2016 season.
Green Bay clinched the division title with a 23-10 victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Monday at U.S. Bank Stadium. The 12-3 Packers have won four games in a row after Aaron Jones and the defense led the way in the latest effort and helped them complete a sweep of their rival.
They can now turn their attention to the battle with the 12-3 San Francisco 49ers and 12-3 New Orleans Saints for the NFC's No. 1 seed.
As for Minnesota, it is still 10-5 and headed to the playoffs as a wild card even though its two-game winning streak came to an end.
Notable Player Stats
- GB QB Aaron Rodgers: 26-of-40 for 216 yards with 1 INT
- GB RB Aaron Jones: 23 carries for 154 yards and 2 TDs
- GB WR Davante Adams: 13 catches for 116 yards
- MIN QB Kirk Cousins: 16-of-31 for 122 yards and 1 TD with 1 INT
- MIN WR Stefon Diggs: 3 catches for 57 yards and 1 TD
Aaron Jones Comes to the Rescue for Packers Offense
Aaron Rodgers is arguably the most talented quarterback in NFL history, and he entered play with 24 touchdown passes to just two interceptions.
Still, he hasn't been the same Aaron Rodgers fans have grown accustomed to. He has as many games with more than 300 passing yards (three) as he does with less than 200 yards this season and is a mere 20th in the league in QBR—behind Daniel Jones, Jameis Winston and Monday's counterpart, Kirk Cousins.
It appeared as if he were headed toward another suboptimal game when he threw an interception to Anthony Harris in the second quarter that set up Cousins' 21-yard touchdown strike to Stefon Diggs.
Rodgers also threw a poorly placed ball to Davante Adams on a would-be touchdown right before the end of the half, though the wide receiver could have caught it.
The Green Bay offensive line struggled to give Rodgers a clean pocket, receivers not named Adams couldn't get open, and No. 12 was missing the magic that often bailed out teammates in similar situations in years past.
The league leader in rushing scores gave the visitors their first touchdown late in the third quarter after Kevin King's interception set them up with favorable field position. He put an exclamation point on the victory by breaking free for a 56-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter and was clearly the best player on the field.
Green Bay's best chance at a Super Bowl doesn't run through this year's version of Rodgers. It's Jones.
Vikings Offense Goes MIA Without Dalvin Cook
Running back Dalvin Cook and backup Alexander Mattison were sidelined by injuries, which left the Vikings with Mike Boone, Ameer Abdullah and C.J. Ham in the backfield.
Fantasy managers hoped Boone would win them championships in Week 16, but Cook is on the shortlist of the best running backs in the league. Without him on the field, the Packers focused more attention on Diggs and Adam Thielen, who didn't even register a reception on four targets.
What's more, Za'Darius Smith didn't have to worry about Cook on screens and draws, which allowed him to pin his ears back and tally 3.5 sacks. That was a problem for an offensive line that was abysmal and cost the Vikings with a holding penalty that nullified a long touchdown pass when they were in comeback mode late.
Without much time to throw or Cook to bail him out, Cousins continued his prime-time struggles and failed to make a single impact play with the game on the line down the stretch.
Minnesota needs its workhorse back before the playoffs.
The Packers finish their regular season Sunday at the Detroit Lions, while the Vikings host the Chicago Bears on the same day.